CIVIL LIBERTIES IN THE NUCLEAR AGE
By Linus Pauling
American Civil Liberties Union Dinner, Denver, Colorado
Saturday 19 November 1960
(A portion of Professor Pauling's address)
Since time immemorial the suppression of civil liberties has been associated principally with war and militarism, economic exploitation, and religious and racial discrimination. Great progress has been made during recent centuries and decades in diminishing the amount of repression of civil liberties associated with religious and racial discrimination, and we may hope for further progress in the immediate future. The problem of oppression in connection with economic exploitation is a great one. Its nature has not been changed very much by the transition from the non-nuclear period to the nuclear age. The problem of repression of civil liberties in relation to war and militarism, which is connected, of course, with the matter of the existence of different social, political, and economic systems in different nations, has, on the other hand, been greatly changed by this transition.
The United States and the U.S.S.R. now have stockpiles of nuclear weapons great enough to kill nearly everybody on earth and to destroy civilization. The power of destruction is so great and the possibilities of protection of any nation against a nuclear attack are so small that there has arisen everywhere in the world a strong movement for the abandonment of war as a means of settling disputes between the nations. Efforts are being made to formulate a satisfactory system of international law and international agreements that would lead to the control of nuclear weapons, to permanent peace, and to the settling of disputes between nations in a way corresponding to the principles of justice and morality.
There is, however, also strong opposition to this movement. There are people in the United States, as well as in other countries, who want the nations of the world to continue to rely upon military might. These people are working for the intensification, acceleration, and increase in the cold war. They are making use of the techniques of repression of civil rights in order to achieve their end.
In 1945 and the immediately following years scientists were active in the fight for control of nuclear weapons. It may well be that the scientists were primarily responsible for the passage of the McMahon Bill, giving control of atomic development to a civilian rather than a military agency. Then, however, there came the period of McCarthyism, which, through repressive measures, resulted in the silencing of the majority of scientists. The attacks on Dr. E. U. Condon and Dr. Martin D. Kamen are representative of this period.
At the present time a very vigorous effort is being made by some powerful figures to prevent the continued negotiation for international agreements for stopping the testing of nuclear weapons and ultimately for total and universal disarmament. Some of the people who are working against peace through international agreements are without doubt ruled by emotion -- the biased emotionalism of extreme nationalism or of religious sectarianism and the memory of past wrongs. No bout political opportunism plays its part, coupled in some cases with ignorance and misunderstanding. The immense cold-war profits of billions of dollars a year constitute a factor that cannot be ignored. We have the example of the "egghead millionaires", described in the September 1960 issue of Fortune magazine -- 100 men with technical background who have become millionaires during the last few years through defense contracts; one who is reported to have profited to the extent of 150 million dollars. Fortune magazine says that one of these men stated that "The Defense Department has abdicated the defense of the country to organizations more interested in increasing their payrolls than in security."
The way in which repression of civil rights operates in the nuclear age is shown by my recent difficulties with the Internal Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate. Three years ago I wrote and circulated a petition which, with the names of 11,021 scientists of 49 nations who had signed it, was presented on 15 January 1958 to the Secretary General of the United Nations. In June 1960 I was subpoenaed by the Internal Security Subcommittee. I testified before the Subcommittee, with Senator Thomas J. Dodd as Acting Chairman, on 21 June and 11 October. I answered all questions, but one question I answered by saying no. I gave the Subcommittee the names of the 1200 scientists in nearly all countries of the world to whom I had written, asking that they sign the petition and get others to sign. I refused to give the Subcommittee the names of the scientists who had collected signatures and returned them to me, and my reasons for refusal seem to have been accepted by the Subcommittee.
There seems to me to be clear indication that the action of the Subcommittee in subpoenaing me and questioning me was a part of a campaign being conducted by Senator Thomas J. Dodd to prevent international agreements that would decrease international tensions from being made. On 12 May 1960 Senator Dodd gave a long speech in the Senate in which he advocated that the United States not make an international agreement to stop the testing of all nuclear weapons, that we immediately resume the testing of nuclear weapons, that we place our reliance on a continually increasing power of destruction, always greater than that of the U.S.S.R., and that we turn nuclear weapons over to our NATO allies. On 25 May 1960 he made a speech in the Senate in which he attacked the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, charging that it was infiltrated with Communists. Then I was subpoenaed by the International Security Subcommittee, with the statement that I would be questioned with respect to Communist participation in or support of propaganda campaign against nuclear testing. Although I answered all questions that were asked me, no evidence whatever about Communist activity in connection with the United Nations petition or the campaign against nuclear testing in general was developed in the course of my hearings. Nevertheless the Subcommittee planned to print the account of my testimony under the heading "Communist Infiltration and Use of Pressure Groups", and it was only after my vigorous protest that this plan was given up (see my letter of 25 September 1960).
I have been shocked by the techniques used by the Subcommittee in connection with my hearings, as described in part in my letters of 25 September 1960 and 1 November 1960. It is my opinion that these techniques are repressive and that they represent a violation of the civil rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
I believe that Senator Dodd has the right to advocate that a change in our government's policy be made, but that it is a misuse of his powers as Vice-Chairman of the Internal Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate to harass me and to attempt to suppress me in the exercise of my right as an American citizen to work for international agreements for cessation of nuclear tests and ultimately for universal and total disarmament, with the best possible system of control and inspection.
I believe that it is of great importance to the American people and the American nation that Congress exercise its investigatory powers in connection with its legislative activities. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee has, however, misused its authority in its harassment of me and other loyal Americans who have not been guilty of any illegal action but have striven to do their duty as citizens.
Let us demand that Congress abolish this Committee, which is a disgrace to the Congress of the United States, to the nation itself, and to the American people -- and that the House Un-American Activities Committee also be abolished.
The New York Times in its editorial of 5 October 1960 stated "Too frequently in the past Congressional committees seeking to preserve the security of the United States have failed to understand the meaning of the First Amendment, confusing dissent with disloyalty, criticism with subversion. That was McCarthyism, which has declined but has not yet died. Too frequently in the present do we still see evidence of the same mentality, in both the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and its counterpart, the House Un-American Activities Committee. At the present moment the Internal Security group is the more obvious offender. It is attempting to force the scientist Linus Pauling to reveal the names of persons who helped collect 11,000 signatures to a 1958 petition urging an international agreement to stop testing nuclear weapons -- something that the Committee apparently feels had a subversive tinge to it at the UN then, although the United States government is pursuing the same objective at Geneva now."
Damage has been done to the United States by the action of the Internal Security Subcommittee. For example, the newspaper Dagbladet of Oslo, Norway, had on 11 July 1960 an editorial entitled "McCarthy Reappears", ending with the sentences "We all know Professor Pauling's views on atomic armaments and nuclear testing. We all know that he has devoted himself and all his working capacity to make his views known all over the world. The names of those scientists who signed the petition to the United Nations are available and can be checked. It is wrong to demand that he reveal the names who contributed to the gathering of the signatures. The technique of suspecting everyone whose standpoint you do not like of being a Communist is detestable, wherever you may find it in use in the world; the consequences of throwing suspicion on people who use their democratic rights to announce their beliefs, even when these beliefs are disagreeable to the government in power, are, however the greater and the more dangerous, the higher on the ladder of society the people are who practice this technique."